With maybe a few Olympic members still burning in some of us, and amazingly the Rio Games in the not too distant future, we can continue to seize the momentum of those monumental few weeks in 2012 and ensure that often used word ‘legacy’ is more than just a notion and a fine intention.
The lift the Games gave the UK was palpable, from people in the stadium and arenas, to school playgrounds and remote pubs in far flung places throughout the British Isles. 204 countries (which I believe is 12 more than recognised by The United Nations) converged on one of the biggest hubs of humanity on the planet for the biggest event on earth.
And in the words of Sebastian Coe, “We did it right”. As the Olympic cauldron burned the world seemed a slightly better place and I think in the UK we felt a modest and rightful pride in that. But now we are more than two years on and the most legacy orientated Games in history needs to see its long term intentions evolve and impact on the generation it pledged to inspire.RELATED: RECOMMENDED PLANS FOR YOU
Early evidence that it is well on course to do just that. Not only are youngsters attending sports clubs in their thousands, but it is becoming clear that us older folk have been moved to respond too. Adults have been dusting off old sporting kit to rekindle former sporting vitality and many havebeen making themselves available to help at clubs and have been signing onto coaching courses.
The surge into athletics clubs, tennis clubs, equestrian centres, velodromes, gymnastic, boxing and rowing clubs has been immense. Not only does this create the opportunity for the next generations of champions to come through, but thousands will discover the joys, disciplines, social and health benefits of being active and sporty.
And the reason for this? The best way to answer that is probably by providing a list: Mo, Jessica, Bradley, Sir Chris, Vicky, Andy, Greg, Laura, boxers, rowers, equestrians, canoeists, cyclists, gymnasts and others. In fact Great Britain’s 65 medals (29 golds) were spread over 16 sports which shows a superb breadth of sporting talent.
These people took the headlines, millions watched them, we were out of our chairs, shouting at the screen in front of us and – lets face it – shedding the occasional tear! The modest decency with which these people competed and excelled shone through at all times and the way they went about their business was a lesson to all of us.
HoweverI’d like to take this opportunity to highlight people and performances that I believe were hugely significant and, in there own way, just as inspiring. I’m talking about those people who didn’t stand on a podium, they might not have made a final and when others were having open top bus celebrations around their home towns, they were elsewhere studying, working, resting, watching events on TV or plugging away at a track somewhere.
But their achievements at London 2012 can be held up alongside the likes Mo, Jess and Sir Chris in terms of showing what can be achieved through belief, desire, dedication and commitment. These are the young athletes – many of whom were barely even participating in their sporting pursuits during the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but came to London wearing the national vest, some reached Olympic finals, they set new personal best standards and broke national records.
Adam Gemili missed out on the men’s 100m final by a fraction of a second, but the 19 year olds blistering speed was there for all to see and his potential to go quicker is very exciting. The lovely Zoe Smith lifted a national record to go deep into the weightlifting competition – and she’s only 18 years old. Laurence Clarke already looks like a sprint hurdler of genuine world class.
Former rugby player and law graduate in waiting Lawrence Okoye threw a national record to make the discus final. As did former ballerina Sophie Hitchon in the hammer. Jessica Ennis illuminated the Olympic stadium through her seven event journey to heptathlon gold, but no one who watched can have failed to fall for the smile, charm, character and abilities of 19 year old Katarina Johnson-Thompson who set PB after PB on her way to a superb 15th place in the heptathlon out of a field of 39.
Young pole vaulter Steve Lewis came 5th in his final, and although record books will show that Andrew Osagie came 8th and last in the 800m final, he took part in one of the greatest races ever and his personal time would have won gold at the last three Olympic Games! These people are at the very beginning of their senior international careers and on an amazing journey to realise their potential.
What they showed us during the Olympic Games provided a tantalising glimpse of what might be to come. These fantastic performances are perhaps the most ‘accessible’ in terms of showing what is possible. Not everybody can be an Olympic champion of course but everyone can set themselves on a course for excellence.
Everyone can take on activities and physical pursuits and everybody can increase their capabilities and improve their performances. And sometimes this can be achieved on the biggest stage in the world. So now it’s about seizing on the interest, encouraging and maintaining it. And we all have a part to play in this.
Those of us who work in the wider fields of fitness and sports participation have a part to play in setting an example and encouraging and inspiring in the best ways we can. And so do all fitness enthusiasts and those of you who enjoy recreational sport. We may not unearth the next champion but we can help set in motion that great habits and enjoyment that could last a lifetime.
It was watching the Olympics that gave me the impetus to sign up to Reading Athletics Club many years ago. And now my little boy Oscar has been so consumed by what he has watched during London 2012 that he wants to try everything. Currently it is mainly martial arts and boxing, and I suspect this has more to do with his planned career as a Ninja..!
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